Burn victims finding new way to grow back hair

She was burned and abandoned, but nothing could stop this little girl from smiling.

About 450,000 Americans are treated for burn injuries each year.

Burns can be excruciatingly painful and disfiguring but an innovative procedure is giving one little girl back something her burns took away.
At three months old, Luci was abandoned at a Chinese orphanage. Her face and body severely burned. There was no explanation, just some cash and a letter.

"It was a note and it said thank you to the kind people and it gave her birthdate," described Luci’s mom Tara Newton.

Tara newton flew to China and adopted Luci when she was four.

"It was just like, God was like, 'there you go. That's why I put you on this earth,’” she said.

Tara is also a burn survivor. A fireworks accident scorched her chest and face.

"Who else can mom a child with that kind of need beside someone who has been there and done that?” she added.

Luci needed major reconstructive surgery.

"The most obvious physical problem that she had was that she had no hair," said Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta Chief of Plastic Surgery Doctor Joseph Williams.

Dr. Williams placed balloon expanders beneath Luci's skin and used the little hair she did have to pull her hairline forward. Each week, he expanded the balloons a little more. After four months, about 60 percent of her scalp was covered with hair. One more round with the expanders could help cover the rest.

"I admire her more than anybody I know," said Tara.

The doctor says a hair transplant on the scalp would not work for Luci because her skin was so badly burned.

Luci will likely have her next round of expansion in a year or so.

Surgeons will also reconstruct her nose and perform a hair transplant on her eyebrows.

Dr. Williams says he believes with the surgeries and make-up, Luci's burn scars will be significantly improved.

REPORT: MB # 3609

BACKGROUND: When the skin comes in contact with something hot, cells in the skin die. The depth of the injury depends on the intensity of the heat and length of time that it is applied. If severe enough, the full thickness of the skin can be destroyed, along with tissues under it. Burns can also result from contact with certain chemicals. Burns are classified by the depth of each the injury so that the appropriate treatment is used.

* First Degree: superficial-redness of skin without blisters
* Second Degree: partial thickness skin damage-blisters
* Third Degree: full thickness skin damage-skin is white and leathery
* Fourth Degree: 3rd degree with damage to deeper structures, like tendons, joints, and bone (Source: http://www.assh.org)

TYPES: There are many different types of burns. Heat burns (thermal) are caused by fire, hot objects, heat, steam, or hot liquids. Cold temperature burns are caused by skin exposure to windy, wet, or cold conditions. Chemical burns are caused by contact with household or industrial chemicals in a liquid, solid, or gas form. Natural foods, like chili peppers, contain a substance that irritates the skin and cause a burning sensation. Electrical burns are caused by contact with electrical sources or by lightning. Radiation burns are caused by the sun, sunlamps, tanning beds, X-rays, or radiation therapy for cancer treatment. Friction burns are caused by contact with any hard surface like roads, carpets, or gym floor surfaces. Breathing in hot air or gases can injure your lungs. Breathing in toxic gases, like carbon monoxide, can cause poisoning in the lungs. (Source: www.webmd.com)

NEW TECHNOLOGY: For severe cases, tissue expansion is an option. Tissue expansion is a procedure that allows the body to grow extra skin. It is done by inserting a silicone balloon expander underneath the skin that needs to be repaired. Then the balloon gradually fills with salt water over time causing the skin to grow and stretch, keeping the skin under tension causes new cells to form. Tissue expansion is used in conditions like breast reconstructive surgery, repairing burns, scars, large birth marks, and hairy areas like the scalp. After the skin stretches, the scaring is removed surgically and the expanded skin is extended to meet healthy un-scarred skin. The expanded skin has a smaller risk of dying because the skin is still attached to the donor's area blood and nerve supply. The main advantage of the procedure is that it provides a good match of texture, color, and hair bearing quality. The main disadvantage of the procedure is related to the length of time needed to stretch and grow the skin, which can be three to four months. Repeated visits to the surgeon are required for salt water injection to expand the balloon. Risks related to the anesthesia and the surgery can include bleeding and infection. (Source: http://www.burn-injury-resource-center.com/2013/01/)

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Patty Gregory
Manager, Public Relations
Children's Healthcare of Atlanta
(404) 785-7618

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